Early intervention: It’s a common mantra for any student with learning difficulties, including dyslexia. But as Terrie Noland, national director of educator engagement for Learning Ally, pointed out in a recent edWebinar, those services are not consistently available to students across the United States. In “Dyslexia: Hidden Costs and Money-Saving Techniques for Districts,” Noland makes a case for front-loading the funding to shrink the learning gap at an earlier age and offers cost-effective solutions to help students engage in their education.
Schools need to develop a three- to five-year plan for students with dyslexia, advises Noland. This should include early identification and intervention services (think kindergarten), teacher training in multi-sensory language approach, and frequent progress reports and assessments to ensure that the services are working. Academically, an investment at the elementary age can keep students reading on level; emotionally, it gives them confidence and makes them feel included with their peer group. Fiscally, addressing students’ needs now could mean avoiding excessive special ed costs in the later years.
In addition, school leaders should investigate and invest in learning tools that specifically address the challenges of dyslexia. Just as teachers need specialized training to understand how to help students with dyslexia, the teachers also need specialized programs or assistive technology that supports the students’ learning styles. This does not mean the students aren’t studying the same material as their peers, but the tools can help reinforce the lessons. For students who did not receive early intervention, there are curricula designed to help get them up to grade level.
(Next page: More short- and long-term strategies for students with dyslexia)